Untangling the Port Botany supply chain
Despite negative public perception, government regulation may have an important role to play in supporting collaborative models of leadership.
The integration of collaborative leadership with government regulatory frameworks could hold the key to solving complex supply chain problems, according to new research from the UTS Business School.
The project looked at the impact of regulation on collaborative leadership structures at one of Australia's busiest: Port Botany in Sydney. A breakdown in the port’s road-based supply chain had resulted in delays of up to four hours for freight to be transferred onto waiting trucks.
In partnership with the Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne, a UTS research team set out to investigate how a collaborative leadership model could contribute to solving the problem. Collaborative leadership, also known as networked leadership, draws value from an organisation’s collective knowledge rather than taking a top-down approach.
“It’s a non-traditional form of leadership that might involve people who are significant in terms of the processes that needed to be adopted,” says project lead Dr Sarah Kaine, an associate professor in the management discipline in the UTS Business School.
In the case of Port Botany, a vast range of stakeholders — such as trucking company representatives and stevedores — had made repeated unsuccessful attempts between 2006 and 2010 to solve the supply chain problem collaboratively.
“As researchers, we were interested in okay, we have a diverse range of stakeholders. Where are their attempts at collaboration and what are the kind of facilitating factors, what are the contextual factors that contribute to this sort of problem?” says Kaine.
“Our findings showed that the capacity for collaborative leadership can be quite limited. Despite what would seem to be fairly good incentives for assisting collaborative leadership to work, in terms of stakeholders having some say in what’s going on rather than having it imposed, there are quite defined limits to that.”
In tracking the history of the port’s supply chain issues, Kaine and her team noted a sudden and dramatic improvement in freight movement and truck wait times after 2010, which coincided with the implementation of a NSW Government regulatory framework to mitigate the issues at the port.
The regulation that was put in place imposed reciprocal penalties between stakeholders in order to change their behaviour. According to Kaine, this approach and its rapid success points to the importance of regulation in creating sustainable outcomes in complex environments.
“Part of the success was that there was an underpinning economic incentive and logic to the discussions between stakeholders and regulatory bodies — and ultimately to the system that they ended up with. What was created was an economic rationale for collaboration,” she says.
“That’s important because of what it says about the imposition of regulation and this idea that you get the best outcomes if you allow stakeholders to regulate themselves.”
The project outcomes will now inform the strengthening of rail-based supply networks at Port Botany, in line with stated government objectives to double rail-based container movement by 2021.
Photographer (cranes and ship): Ian Sanderson (via Flickr),
Photographer (train): Greg Wotton (via Flickr)